Used by Google and other search engines to help determine a web page’s subject and its overall relevance against the site as a whole, Metadata is an essential – though regularly overlooked – area of a website. In addition to its role in SEO, metadata is also used to provide viewers with small snippets of information on Google searches, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, and many other platforms where a site URL might be posted, displayed, or searched for.
On the right you will see an example of a basic Google Search. The large blue text is the meta title and underneath that is the URL of the Landing Page (‘landing page’ is the term used for any web page that a user arrives on. Generally speaking, the home page of a website is the most common landing page, but depending on what was searched for Search Engines might well direct users to a more specific page). The text underneath the URL is the meta description, and this will display either the first bit of text on the site or customised text.
In an ideal world no web page on a site would be without custom metadata, as it benefits search engines and physical users.
Meta titles and meta descriptions are only allowed to take up a limited amount of space, otherwise they will be discarded or cut off. The space allocated for each is measured in pixels, with meta titles being limited to 512 pixels and meta descriptions being limited to 920 pixels. The pixel width assigned to both translates roughly to 70 max. characters for meta-titles and 160 max. characters for meta descriptions (as the font size for the meta description is smaller than the meta title’s).
Having said that, it is obvious that a ‘W’ consumes a greater number of pixels than an ‘I’ for example, which is why the maximum character limit is not a hard and fast rule that can always be relied upon. To be on the safe side it is recommended that you consider 50 characters to be the ideal meta title length and 150 – 155 characters for meta descriptions.
Whilst the length of the text is important, so too is its content. As stated earlier, metadata is as much for search engines as it is for potential visitors so they have to be crafted to suit. Search engines use keywords to determine a page’s subject, which is why it is important that a site’s content is built upon a foundation of keywords that are regularly searched for by search engine users. There are several ways of determining what search terms are commonly used, but one of the most common and accessible is the Google AdWords keyword tool.
How To Write Metadata
The AdWords Keyword Tool is not the most accurate indicator as it is more closely related to paid advertising than SEO, but it will more than suffice in lieu of most other tools of its kind that cannot be accessed without being paid for in advance.
One of the most frustrating things about metadata is that there is such a limited space in which to include the necessary SEO content whilst also ensuring the text’s readability. Fortunately, some of the work ought to already have been done for you. If no meta title is provided then the web page’s name is used instead, and if put together correctly a website’s page title ought to already be optimised for SEO.
Much like the speed limit on a road, the maximum character allowance is just that; a maximum. You should never treat it as a target that must be hit, and in fact sometimes a meta description of 120 characters will be far better than one of 150. Having said that, using only 80 characters and squandering half of the character limit is not advisable either, but in the end as long as the relevant keywords are included, and the page’s subject is clearly portrayed, the job’s done.
Optimus Performance Marketing provides numerous digital marketing services; including SEO content writing, social media management, auditing websites, and, of course, creating optimised metadata. For more information, please visit the SEO services page on our website or call us on +44 (0)1752 775 751.
Author: Alem Al-Khamiri
The head of SEO, PPC and digital content at Optimus-PM, Alem is Google AdWords certified and has years of digital marketing & website management experience.